The Pharaoh and the Commanding Heights

The Egyptian military is, for now, looking like a force for democratization. It should not be forgotten, however, that the military is an oligarchy which controls huge swaths of the Egyptian economy.  Chariotguy

SFChronicle: It owns companies that sell everything from fire extinguishers and medical equipment to laptops, televisions, sewing machines, refrigerators, pots and pans, butane gas bottles, bottled water and olive oil.

Its holdings include vast tracts of land, including the Sharm el-Sheikh resort, where ex-President Hosni Mubarak now resides in one of his seaside palaces. Bread from its bakeries has helped head off food riots.

Time notes:

Another source of the military's untold wealth is its hold on one of this densely populated country's most precious commodities: public land, which is increasingly being converted into gated communities and resorts. The military has other advantages: it does not pay taxes and does not have to deal with the bureaucratic red tape that strangles the private sector. 

…The revenue streams from its various holdings help the military maintain the lifestyle its officers have grown accustomed to, including an extensive network of luxurious social clubs as well as comfortable retirements – all of which helps ensure officer loyalty.

Not surprisingly, the military has opposed privatization and economic liberalization. The Egyptian military currently commands a great deal of respect in Egypt but what happens when a nascent democracy tries to reform an entrenched oligarchy?


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